Welcome to Molten Music Monthly! Sorry it’s late, been really busy, lots to do with no time to do it in. I’ve taken on a little sideline in writing little music tech news articles for a new website called gearnews.com so if you’d like to enjoy my sarcasm every day then pop over there for a daily dose of news and opinion. This means that I’ve kept up to date on the new stuff far more than usual and now have to worry about which things to talk about rather than trying to find them in the first place. It also means that my gear lust is in overdrive and I keep finding myself accidentally buying new sounds – just like I told you not to.
So what choice snippets to I have for you this month? Well we’re going to talk about MySpace and worry about how Soundcloud will ever make any money. We’ve got Thunderbolt support on Windows, and my first impression of the Focusrite Clarett. We go strangely gothic with Dronar, and cinematic with Morphestra 2 and go all goey inside with Nervana headphones, and checkout T7 the latest from Tracktion Corporation.
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But first on the Surface Pro 4 I’ve put together a handful of videos on how to start making music – how to set it up and tweak windows. I ran into a bit of trouble with ASIO4ALL and made a video all about how to work that bugger out and it’s all available on this channel so go and check it out. Since then I’ve moved into testing various bits of software and I’m having a bit of trouble which is why it’s been so long since my last report. I’m still working through the issues at the moment so stay with me and I’ll be publishing my findings and solutions as soon as I can. Wifo Corp also sent me some more coloured pointers to try with the Remofinger G, which is awesome so i will let you know how that goes.
MySpace was in the news again for all the wrong reasons. It was sold as part of a bundle of technology to Time Inc which they are probably just going to mine for user data. It used to be a real thing, a place where you’d post rude comments about other peoples music choices and hope upon hope that a girl would like your stuff. It looked terrible, all clashing colours and uncontrollable layout but that didn’t seem to matter in the early days of the 21st century. Look at it now and I’ve no idea what it’s about – is it Spotify or iTunes or a news site – dunno. It all got a bit tribal and cliquey which is probably why we wandered off to Facebook so that our less cool friends (like our mum) could be part of the online conversation and we could share more than music. Do we care? Not really.
I care a lot more about SoundCloud as it’s something which is actually useful. They recently published disastrous financial results for 2014 and are not looking any healthier now. SoundCloud is awesome because it lets you upload your tunes and people can listen to them, comment on them, you can stick the player on your website and it generally has this great open source, free and groovy feel to it – but of course it costs an arm and a leg to keep all that stuff flowing. They have subscription options but neither the Pro or Pro Unlimited have anything that’s very interesting to the majority of users – i don’t care about analytics and 3 hours of music is a lifetimes worth at my level of output. Apparently they pay their staff really really well, which is nice but obviously it’s not sustainable. I don’t like subscription unless it’s something I use all the time but I’d pay like 50 cents an upload or something like that – maybe that’s an alternative way to start generating. I’ve just heard that SoundCloud are going to be switching to subscription only in July – that’s really very sad. Apparently there are 175 million users who currently pay nothing to use the service. If you do as i suggest and charge a dollar an upload you could bring SoundCloud back into the black almost instantly – couple that with a dollar to keep your existing tunes, sort of an old tune amnesty that they’d be minted – i think a lot of people would be happy with that.
In the glamouress world of ports and interconnections audio over Thunderbolt 3 finds itself supported in Windows 10. This means that manufacturers can build Thunderbolt 3 audio interfaces for Windows and find them hot pluggable and better at reallocating resources when being installed – which basically means they will work. Intel decided that Thunderbolt 3 should have the same port as USB3.1 however they are not necessarily compatible so having a USB3.1 port on your computer doesn’t mean it’s able to do Thunderbolt, or vice versa which brilliantly adds to the general confusion over the various USB versions, different plugs and stuff working or not – Good Job! Do we need USB3.1 and Thunderbolt? Well it’s fast and stuff, so why not. The few Thunderbolt interfaces out there so far have demonstrated great performance so i guess that’s a win. The only snag is that Thunderbolt is expensive so you’ll only find it on higher end motherboards and systems and it has to be built in – you can’t add support later. The other kicker is that for some reason Thunderbolt boxes never seem to ship with a cable – so that’s another 20 quid to apple via Amazon.
I have the opportunity to beta test the Windows drivers on the Focusrite Thunderbolt endowed audio interface known as the Clarrett. Obviously I can’t tell you anything about how that’s going but the box itself is really nice. I’ve got the 2Pre version and it has nice knobs on the front – the ring around the gain knobs light up as level meters which is fabulous. It only has two in/out but it does have an ADAT input on the back for a bit of expansion. It’s got their “air” mode which switches in an analogue model of a classic ISA mic preamp for a nice colourfully warm input feel. The specs on the range are very high and at £499 is looks expensive but is probably worth it for the quality of technology. Spoiler on the driver for Windows – looking pretty good to me.
Now for something from Gothic Instruments in the shape of a Kontakt instrument from the depths of alien cinematic soundscapes. It’s a kind of droney, evolving, texturing, down in the bottom of a cave echoing type of atmospheric generator. Just has a few simple knobs that affect how the sound moves, how the arpeggiators and LFOs work to modulate the sound. There’s 16GB of source material in this thing giving you a load of potential to play with. It’s created by Dan Graham and Adam Hanley who have both been involved in creating atmospheric sample library and worked on trailer music for big hollywood movies – so they know how to generate big pumping, attention grabbing soundscapes. It’s fifty quid and worth experimenting with if you’re into that kind of thing.
Or, if 16GB just doesn’t cut it in terms of cinematic sound sources then check our Sample Logic’s Morphestra 2. It comes with 25GB of sounds, 5000 presets, 1100 sound sources, 635 soundcores and 3300 instruments. What does it all mean? Who knows but you can be assured that it has all the thundering, morphing, textured, evolving organic cinematic sound mangling you could possible want to throw popcorn at. I’m going to try to start reviewing some of these cinematic wotsits – they’re everywhere and i’m not sure how much atmosphere we can actually deal with. Morphestra 2 is a much bigger deal and comes in at $499.
Loving this – headphones that claim they can stimulate feel good nerves in sync with the music to give you a highly pleasurable listening experience. It’s about generating neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin that are responsible for enhanced mood and happiness – so it’s less about sexiness and more about making you a bit smiley. You’ve kind of got to wonder if that’s not the purpose of music in the first place. Anyway, it works by using a little fag packet sized box that takes in your music, analysers it and pumps out the music mixed with these triggers via their special ear buds. It doesn’t have to be music, it also has a microphone built in so it can match smiley vibes up to your environment. Once tried would we ever take them out again? Would normal life and normal music become dull and sad in comparison? What would happen if you pumped Radiohead through it – a matter and anti-matter collision? Who knows but it sounds like the sort of thing you have to try. Should be out now for about $299.
Tracktion Corporation have release a brand new version of their well regarded DAW now called T7. Tracktion sort of invented the single screen DAW now copied by Studio One, Sonar and everyone else seems to be heading that way. Version 7 brings a bit of a re-write also makes their single screen a bit more dynamic giving the arrangement more space and having unnecessary windows slide away. It’s been around a long time and has recently gone through a bit of a rebirth – i don’t know it very well but I’m planning to do a full review of it as soon as i can – it’s next on my list.
That’ll do for now. I’m planning to start producing a lot more review videos of interesting products. So if you have something that you’d like me to do a number on then get in touch. Coming soon i have a review of Tracktion T7 and their Biotek synth, I have the LogicKeyboard wanting to show EditorsKeys a thing or two, I want to do Dronar and Morphestra 2 – but we’ll see what I can blag out of them. I also have the Clarrett waiting for full release drivers. And stay tuned for the latest in my Surface Pro 4 audio adventure.